Saturday, January 3, 2015

Maximizing health and safety while pursuing our mission

In 2014 UCSC was ranked as #1 in the WORLD for its research influence. There are many ways in which the BAS division supports and advances the research mission of our campus. One unit that plays a special role is the Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) unit. Research is far from the only area that EH&S advances on campus. This unit works to ensure (among other things) our waste water is properly handled, our work spaces are ergonomically safe, our eating establishments abide by important health codes and colleagues are properly handling hazardous material. During the "In My Shoes" day with this unit, I was able to see some of the ways that EH&S contributes to a safe and healthy UCSC community. Here are some lessons from that day that apply to all of BAS.

My lab coat for my day with EH&S

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: One of my tasks with EH&S was conducting a safety inspection of one of our shops. While some might view such inspections as being disruptive or punitive in nature, they actually serve a critical role. No matter what unit we work in, we need to ensure we have trained team members on safety protocols. It can be a matter of life and death. The safety inspections ensure that equipment is properly stored, safety information is properly displayed, safety equipment is accessible and team members know what to do should a safety issue arise. All units in BAS need to ensure they are being proactive about health and safety within their units. As the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

One of the shops we inspected during our day

Everyone has a role to play in safety: During my day with EH&S, I engaged in an ergonomic review. I learned a lot about proper placement of office equipment, how to properly place my hands when typing and how to ensure my chair is at the proper height and distance from my desk. While EH&S provides an abundance of information on this topic and easy to use tools, it ultimately is all of our responsibly to ensure we are doing our part to use proper ergonomic techniques. Whether you work at a desk or in a shop, everyone in BAS needs to ensure they are aware of proper ergonomics.

Taking pride in our work: A major initiative at UCSC (and across the entire UC system) is the new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) distribution process. The mission of UCSC requires that faculty, students and staff work with equipment and substances that, if not properly handled, can cause great harm. PPE (whether it be lab coats or goggles) are the first line of defense in this work. Our teammates in EH&S take great care to properly outfit colleagues with the appropriate gear and ensure it fits correctly. I noted how much pride my EH&S teammates took in their work, as they knew that the outcome of their efforts had a direct impact on the ability of UCSC to advance research.

Each lab coat is fitted for the user

Partnering with our academic units: As I have said repeatedly, BAS is not the "end" of the UCSC mission, rather it is part of the "means". Partnering with colleagues across campus is vital as we serve the campus mission. It is clear that the EH&S staff have worked hard to ensure there is effective teamwork with our colleagues in academic units that conduct research. Whether it was doing an inspection to ensure the labs were safe or getting ready for a visit from the county inspector, partnering with academic units is vital.

Conducting an inspection of one of the Science Hill labs

My time with EH&S was a very rewarding one. I so much about their operations and how these teammates advance the UCSC mission. I am grateful to them for hosting me.

A slug I am,

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